Mystery of missing UK election pledge 'tombstone'

LONDON (AFP) - The hunt was on across Britain on Saturday to find the defeated Labour Party's much-derided giant monolith bearing their election pledges carved in stone.

Ed Miliband, who quit as opposition Labour leader on Friday following the Conservatives' general election triumph, unveiled the tablet of stone on May 3, with six rock-solid commitments written on it.

The 2.6-metre-high monument was quickly dubbed the Ed Stone, the Milistone, the Policy Cenotaph and Miliband's political tombstone, with newspapers comparing the Labour leader to Moses and the Ten Commandments.

Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson branded the grey limestone slab the "heaviest suicide note in history".

The monolith was to have been erected in glory in the Downing Street garden following Thursday's election - but has now vanished.

The Labour Party added to the mystery by refusing to discuss the stone at all.

A Labour spokesman told AFP: "I'm not getting into that." It was unveiled in a car park in Hastings on the southern English coast. Nobody was at home at the local Labour offices. Local crane hire firms said they hadn't seen it.

Harriet Harman, Labour's stand-in leader, insisted: "We have not lost it," without specifying a location.

Britain's newspapers are on the trail: the Daily Mail is offering a case of champagne for information leading to the discovery of the Ed Stone. The Sun has opened a hotline.

Some critics said the pledges chiselled on the monument were vague.

The stone read: "A better plan. A better future.

"1 A strong economic foundation "2 Higher living standards for working families "3 An NHS with the time to care "4 Controls on immigration "5 A country where the next generation can do better than the last "6 Homes to buy and action on rents." Miliband's signature was carved on the bottom.

"They're carved in stone because they won't be abandoned after the general election," he said at the unveiling.

"I want the British people to remember these pledges, to remind us of these pledges." He then told BBC radio: "We're setting out promises - they don't expire on May 8. They don't disappear." A fake account on the eBay auction site offered it for sale, with a starting price of £1, describing it as an "unused garden sculpture created in a moment of misplaced optimism and general misunderstanding of the sensible nature of the British public".

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